Behind enemy lines: previewing the Heart of Dallas Bowl and Army vs. North Texas part two

Behind enemy lines: previewing the Heart of Dallas Bowl and Army vs. North Texas part two

Behind enemy lines: previewing the Heart of Dallas Bowl and Army vs. North Texas part two
December 26
17:41 2016

Editor’s note: The North Texas Daily went behind enemy lines with Army football beat writer Sal Interdonato of the Times Herald-Record for an inside look at the Black Knights, along with previewing and predicting Tuesday’s bowl game.

What is one thing you are interested to see in this rematch?

Sal Interdonato: The play of Army’s defense. The Black Knights are ranked fourth in the country in total defense and were embarrassed by North Texas in the second half of a 35-18 loss on Oct. 22. Jeffery Wilson sliced through the defense for 157 yards and three touchdowns after halftime. Army is coming off a Navy win where it held the Midshipmen, one of the nation’s top rushing teams to 112 yards, to about 200 yards below its average.

Reece Waddell (Managing Sports Editor, North Texas Daily): North Texas’ offense. Last time these teams played, the Mean Green had a healthy Mason Fine and Jeffery Wilson. Fine, who became the first true freshman in nearly a decade to start at quarterback for North Texas, sprained his A/C joint in their loss to Western Kentucky and is not expected to play much, if at all. Wilson had minor knee surgery before the WKU game as well, but played in the season finale against UTEP and has practiced all throughout December. North Texas also had wide receiver Terian Goree and backup running back Willy Ivery when they beat the Black Knights back in October. Unfortunately, Goree has since been kicked off the team and transferred, and Ivery was ruled academically ineligible. If they’re going to have a chance at winning, the Mean Green are going to have to score with a banged up and somewhat depleted offense.

Clay Massey (Senior Sports Writer, North Texas Daily): I’m very interested to see if Army can hold onto the football. If the Black Knights do that, they should have a much better day than the first time when these two teams met. Army turned the ball over seven times while the Mean Green only gave the rock up once. It is not completely out of the question for the Black Knights to do this again, as they did turn the ball over four times in a 21-17 win over a ranked Navy squad. That said, it will be tough for North Texas to beat Army again, especially if they don’t win the turnover battle. 

Who is one player to watch on Army?

SI: Quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw’s game and leadership has grown since the North Texas loss. He’s led Army to wins over Wake Forest and Navy. North Texas forced Army into passing situations in their first meeting and Bradshaw was picked off on four of his 21 attempts. If Bradshaw and Army run the triple option effectively, Bradshaw will not be forced to pass and will throw more high-percentage passes.

RW: I’ll double down on Bradshaw as well. He is the motor behind Army’s triple option offense. When he plays well, so do the Black Knights. When he has a bad game, well, just look at their October loss to North Texas. Bradshaw finished 7-of-21 for 101 yards and four interceptions. The Mean Green defense flustered him once. Can they do it again?

CM: In the triple option system it all start and ends with the man under center. Bradshaw is absolutely essential to Army’s success. Bradshaw and the Black Knights rarely throw the ball. It is simply not part of their scheme. In the loss to North Texas, Bradshaw threw a career-high 21 passes. If the Mean Green let him get settled and run his offense, uh oh. If the Mean Green force him to throw, North Texas will be hoisting its second Heart of Dallas Bowl trophy.

Who is one player to watch on North Texas?

SI: Quarterback Alec Morris. It seems like Morris provides North Texas with a more challenging passing game than freshman Mason Fine. Freshmen cornerbacks Jaylon McClinton and Elijah Riley are two of Army’s best hitters and haven’t played like first-year players this season.

RW: Jeffery Wilson. In October, Wilson torched Army in what was then the second-best rush defense in the country for 160 yards and three touchdowns. Roughly two weeks after that game, however, Wilson had minor knee surgery. He has been practicing, and last week Littrell said he was “close to 100 percent.” Without Fine and other weapons, North Texas will need for Wilson to have another big day and flash his explosiveness that, at one point, had him second in the nation in rushing touchdowns behind only Heisman winner Lamar Jackson of Louisville.

CM: Bradshaw’s opposite, Alec Morris. It’s one last hoorah for the Allen High School product who sat on the bench for two Alabama national championships and then was benched for a freshman after just three and some change worth of quarters in his first start for North Texas. That had to hurt. Littrell said he has been an outstanding teammate throughout the year, never hanging his head, and Morris himself has said he sees freshman Mason Fine as a little brother. Morris nearly fought his way back to the starting job before the Western Kentucky game, and got his chance when fine went down with a shoulder injury. Morris has a chance to re-write his legacy completely. If he leads the Mean Green to a bowl game victory, he will no longer be the “Alabama transfer.” He will be the North Texas quarterback. He may have been to two national championship games, but this definitely has to feel like the biggest game of his career on the Cotton Bowl grass just 30 minutes from his hometown.

Prediction and score

SI: Army is determined to erase its earlier defeat to North Texas and finish the season on a high note. I don’t see Army turning the ball over seven times, like it did on Oct. 22, or allowing more than two touchdowns. Army 38, North Texas 14.

RW: Before the season started, if you told me North Texas would make a bowl game, I would have probably gone into cardiac arrest from laughing so hard. Littrell and the Mean Green have made me eat my words all season, but I don’t see them doing it again. Army has all the momentum in the world heading into this game. They beat a ranked Navy team for the first time in 15 years to end the regular season while North Texas lost four of its last five games. The Mean Green’s offense will sputter, and the Black Knights will run them over with their patented triple option. Army 31, North Texas 17.

CM: If Army holds onto the football, they will eat a lot of clock. The Mean Green will have to execute every chance they get, and that consistent execution has been a problem all season. But Army is a little one dimensional. If you shut down the triple option and force them to throw, the Black Knights look lost. The Mean Green have already done that once, can they do it again? I think so. North Texas 24, Army 14.

Featured image: North Texas freshman quarterback Mason Fine (6) throws a pass against Louisiana Tech. Colin Mitchell

About Author

Reece Waddell

Reece Waddell

Reece Waddell is the Editor-in-Chief of the North Texas Daily, and has also worked for The Dallas Morning News and WFAA-TV.

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